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The past year has brought monumental change to Utah's juvenile justice system.

Incarcerated youths are no longer automatically shackled when they appear in court. They are given better access to lawyers and are allowed to stay in juvenile detention until they are 18, even if they are sentenced in adult court.

Last week, the Utah Board of Juvenile Justice honored six people who were instrumental in making these changes: four legislators who helped modify the laws and two 3rd District Juvenile Court judges who pushed for change.

Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, and Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, were both honored for their co-sponsorship of a bill passed during the last legislative session, which amended many juvenile offender laws and gave juvenile judges more flexibility to keep kids in the juvenile system rather than sending them to adult court.

Republican Sen. Daniel Thatcher and Rep. Erik Hutchings, R-Kearns, also were given awards for their work in moving state funds to the Division of Juvenile Justice Services. That money allowed JJS to open two new centers in Price and Vernal, and to restore hours of operations in other centers that had cut back hours because of lost funding, according to a Utah Department of Human Services news release.

Finally, judges Dane Nolan and James Michie were honored for piloting programs that allowed children to be in the courtroom without shackles, unless they posed a risk to themselves or court staff.

While juvenile court workers applauded that work, JJS Director Susan Burke told the crowd of about 50 people in a gymnasium at the Salt Lake County Juvenile Detention Center that there was still more to do.

"We recognize in our juvenile justice system today that youth are different than adults," Burke said. "That's why we're here today, that these things that have been happening in Utah in the juvenile justice system will no longer happen."

Speaking directly to the dozens of youth offenders in attendance, Burke said people are working to change the system to better serve them.

"We want to create a system that honors you," she said. "That respects you. That recognizes that you are going through difficult times and struggles. … There are still remaining issues. Our work is not done."

Burke said there still alarming statistics that illustrate the need for more change: that half of incarcerated youths in Utah are minorities and that those living in rural areas are more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system. Out of every 100 youth in Carbon County, she said, eight will be locked up. In Salt Lake County, two out of every 100 youths will be incarcerated in a juvenile detention center.

She said it is also troublesome that some youths say they prefer being locked up to being at home, because they feel safe and supported.

"We need to create more opportunities for families to be supportive," she said. "… It's a shame that we have to have kids get involved in Juvenile Justice Services in order to get help."

The event also celebrated Utah's first Youth Justice Awareness Month. Gov. Gary Herbert signed a declaration last week declaring the month of October "Juvenile Justice Awareness Month."

Pamela Vickrey, executive director of Utah Juvenile Defender Attorneys, told the crowd that they hope to help people statewide identify the strengths and weakness of the juvenile court system through the newly declared awareness month.

"Every year during the month of October," Vickrey said, "Utah Juvenile Justice Services aims to come together and shed light on issues that impact the youth each year."